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Let’s talk about what to do when you to Thanksgiving – or another holiday party – and you get body shamed by family members.
A lot of great body positive advocates have shared tips on what to do before the holiday, to make clear folks know not to do things like:
- Comment on how much or what you’re eating
- Talk about calories of food
- Self-deprecate about their own bodies
What to Do When Body Shamed at Thanksgiving
But what do you do if, despite your best efforts, someone says something to you about your body that upsets you?
While I can’t speak to everyone, here are 5 tips (with scripts!) on what I’d do in your situation.
Below I share:
- What to say in the moment
- What to do after you leave or a few days later
These tips and scripts might not work for everyone, and my goal is to help folks who have been called “fat” or “chubby” at Thanksgiving (as an insult) or heard other hurtful remarks. <3
But first. You deserve to be loved.
You do not deserve to be treated poorly.
You deserve to be in spaces that celebrate who you are.
You deserve joy.You deserve to have an okay or nice time!
You deserve to celebrate, and attend gatherings where you’re not crying in the bathroom or trying not to cry.
You deserve a space where people respect your boundaries.
So, today, if you’re kicking yourself – it’s okay. You tried to show up and make the best of things.
Ok, now time to protect boundaries! <3. You got this!! <3
Note: When sharing scripts, I share what I would do in the situation. Setting boundaries can be hard for everyone, and especially hard if you rely on the offending person for financial support – or other kinds of support.
If you don’t feel safe naming a boundary, it is okay to just not show up for future holidays. Blame getting the flu!
If you rely on the bully for financial or other support – it may be a good idea to just not attend events in the future. <3
Tip #1 When Body Shamed at Thanksgiving: Explicitly Share CLEAR Feedback & Communicate Boundaries
When body shamed at Thanksgiving, it is important to state clear feedback and communicate boundaries.
If someone makes comments about your body or what you’re eating at Thanksgiving or another holiday meal, it can be hard to share a boundary in the moment.
For that reason, I recommend practicing this script several times aloud:
“Hi (name). It is actually not appropriate for you to comment on my body or what I’m eating. I think you *think* you’re doing this out of love… but this is not loving. You are actually being quite rude. Do not do this again.
I recommend practicing this script several times aloud!
This script seems a bit abrupt, and it’s supposed to be abrupt! This script uses cultural expectations to flip the power dynamic:
- Point out they’re being inappropriate, and name the issue (“It is actually not appropriate for you to comment on my body or what I’m eating”)
- Refute excuses they might offer around being “concerned” or “care” for you – big eye roll at that! (“I think you’re doing this out of love, but this is not loving.”)
- Tell them they’re being rude. This will shut up most people. (“You are actually being quite rude.”)
- Set a clear boundary. (“Do not do this again.”)
When sharing a response like this, it’s important to be super clear. Do not back down.
Many times, people feel like they’ve stated the above, when actually they said maybe a sentence about hurt feelings.
I’m proud of you for naming and protecting your boundaries.
I get that it’s SO HARD to communicate in the moment, which is why I’ve shared scripts below!
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Tip #2 When Body Shamed by Family Members: Message to Send Later
Sometimes, it’s hard to communicate this in the moment when you’ve been body shamed at Thanksgiving. Here is a script I would use to share my feelings after the event:
“Hi (name). I’m reaching out to you to let you know you really hurt my feelings at (holiday name). Commenting on what i’m eating // Making comments about my size was very hurtful, and honestly inappropriate. I think you *think* you’re doing this out of love, but this is not loving. You are actually being quite rude. Do not do this again.“
Sometimes, it’s hard to communicate this in the moment. Communicating through email or text might be a better option!
At this point, the person will either apologize or they’ll fail to reply. If they fail to reply, I would follow up with:
“Hi (name), did you see this note? I love you a lot, and it’s important with me to be honest with you. I love seeing you at (holiday name), and I want to be sure this doesn’t happen again.”
WARNING: If you send this and they respond with body shaming or hurtful remarks, I would say:
“(Name), it is inappropriate for you to make these comments and very hurtful. As a person, I deserve to be loved and supported – and trying to shame me is not okay. This makes me feel unsafe around you. I am telling you explicitly to stop doing this. If this is a boundary you cannot respect, if you cannot respect me, then I will not be attending future events.”
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Tip #3 When Body Shamed by Family Members: Gift with your absence
Now, the above script ended with a threat to not come in the future.
If someone cannot respect my boundaries, or be a decent human, then I believe it’s important to find somewhere else to be.
Life is too short for this nonsense!
If there is one person in the family who will not stop making comments, despite being asked several times, here’s what I’d send to the hurtful family member and their spouse, (ex: to mom and dad):
Yesterday was a very hard day for me. (Name) has continued to call me names, comment on my eating or make other remarks about my body. . I want to let you know that If this happens again, myself and (family members in your immediate family) will no longer attend events where (name of bully) is present.
I’m sad to have to put up a strong boundary here, but I refuse to spend the next decades being bullied. If this happens again, I will also be alerting all other family members why I am not coming to events where (name) is present. I am teaching my child by example that going to a place where you’re regularly bullied is not how we care for ourselves.
At this point, I’m not sure what else to do. I don’t want to spend future family holidays crying.”
This is making an ultimatum and giving one last chance. I would send this message to multiple people (ex dad and mom), so mom can really have a clear talk with him.
If the bully does this again, I’d protect your boundary. I would stop attending family events if the bully is there – and I would communicate CLEARLY why you are doing this.
I would stop attending family events if the bully is there – and I would communicate CLEARLY why you are doing this.
I would not make up excuses for why I can’t make it (although you are free to do this, I don’t know your specific dynamic!), so everyone at that party knows clearly why I’m not there.
If it gets to that point, here’s what I’d send to other family members: “Hi all. My feelings were very much hurt by (name) at (holiday) and at numerous other get togethers. I have talked with (name) directly about their bullying, and there has been no change.
This is an issue that keeps happening, and I will not continue to go to spaces where I am treated horribly.
This is not okay.
I appreciate folks trying to step in, but it’s clear (name) doesn’t care enough to change their hurtful behavior. I will no longer be attending family events where he is present.”
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I wouldn’t make excuses to make everyone more comfortable while I’m being bullied! I would let *everyone* know what’s going on.
Tip #4 When Body Shamed at a Family Holiday Party: Educate Allies
In a situation where you’ve been body shamed like this at a family event or meal, it is important to communicate to others how you want to be supported.
If you have a partner (or partners), spouse, etc, then that person should always stand up for you in the moment. If they’re not good with confrontation, they should get your coats and leave.
Example Script: “(Name), I love you and I know you love me. It was very hurtful to me that when (bully’s name) said something to me at (holiday) party, you didn’t do anything. If someone said that to you, I would immediately come to your defense or we would leave. Why aren’t you defending me?”
Silence is agreement. <3
In my opinion, people who love you should stand up for you. And if they don’t stand up for you, then we have a problem.
Tip #5 When Body Shamed at a Family Holiday Party: Citing Concern
I think the most difficult part of this whole situation, when you’ve been bullied or body shamed, is when people say they are bullying you out of “care for you.”
They’ll say things like, “I’m just concerned” or “I’m worried about you…”
Assuming they have good intentions, commenting on your body or using shame is absolutely inappropriate. It is harmful. It is not okay.
If someone tries to use this excuse, I always go back to:
“I know you think you are being helpful. I am explicitly telling you that you are not being helpful. i am telling you that you are hurting me. I am telling you to stop.”
Clear an explicit communication here is critical. If you need to, you can absolutely have these conversations via text or email, so you can process and reply.
Imagine what your ideal holiday meal would look like.
Maybe today, you can sit down and imagine what your ideal day would look like. You can journal about the food, fun and laughter. You can take some time to imagine how you’d like things to go. This can feel overwhelming, so setting a timer for 10-15 minutes.
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